Plenty of celebrities had their beginnings when they were just children. These first-time gigs gave all of the kids a head start toward life in the limelight. This could go either way—they could absolutely rock or it could lead to all kinds of complications.
For some of the little ones, this was just what they needed and it set them up for ultimate success. They managed to stay out of trouble and work their way into the movies they’re starring in, to this day. All of that experience from a young age seemed to help them out quite a bit.
Other child stars didn’t get so lucky. A lot goes on in Hollywood, and some of it proved to be too much for these kids to handle.
We don’t blame them for getting into some trouble though. It just happens, especially when they’re under all that pressure and being influenced in so many different ways.
It’s impossible to gauge which child stars will be successful and which ones will travel down the wrong path. It’s a risky career move—even for seven-year-olds! Let’s see some of the celebs who had a great life in the limelight and some others who it just didn’t work out for.
10 Who Grew Up Famous And Survived It
15 Scarlett Johansson—Successful From The Start
Most of us are aware of Scarlett Johansson’s success to this day. She’s starred in countless films, and she has shown us that she’s got what it takes to be a big name in Hollywood. She’s pretty well-known and appreciated.
Not everyone knows how or where Johansson really kicked things off though.
When she was 10 years old, she had a role in a comedy called North.
After that first role, she landed a bunch more gigs. She had a variety of roles throughout her teenage years. She kept this up throughout her 20s.
Her positive experience in the limelight likely has something to do with where Johansson is today. It clearly worked out well for this chick! Where would she be without those first few films that she starred in?
14 Joseph Gordon-Levitt—A Household Name
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has gotten increasingly more popular throughout the recent years with all of his new roles. He has quite the presence in Hollywood—especially as far as the ladies are concerned. Us younger fans might not know exactly where his story began though!
When handsome Gordon-Levitt was just seven years old, he guest-starred on several TV shows. From there, he went on to star in Third Rock from the Sun. The 15-year-old reaped a lot of benefits from this hit show, as it might be considered his ticket into Hollywood.
Since he started acting, Gordon-Levitt has skyrocketed to success. He’s been in plenty of hit movies over the past few years and is largely recognized now. He’s lucky to have had such a positive experience as a child actor!
13 Natalie Portman—A Professional
It may not be a perfectly romanticized story, but this is how Natalie Portman got her big boost toward stardom.
When she was just 11 years old, a modeling rep noticed her at a pizza place. From there, she was on her way to Hollywood.
Shortly after she was discovered, she was in The Professional, which was released in 1994. Her childhood acting career quickly came to an end though. Her parents sent her to Harvard, where she studied psychology. Her parents made a big deal about keeping her humble and giving her a life outside of the limelight.
After she got her degree, she returned to Hollywood and picked up a few acting gigs. She seems to be on the straight and narrow and manages to stay out of trouble. We can all thank her parents for this!
12 Ryan Gosling—Dabbled In Disney
We all know what Ryan Gosling is famous for today. Obviously, it’s his killer good looks and his charm. Most of the ladies out there will agree that he’s a talented and attractive guy. He’s pretty well-known in Hollywood, and there’s a reason for it. Part of it has to do with his “hey girl” expression. There’s more to it than that. Before his current big-time roles, where was he?
Some of us are aware of the fact that he was on The Mickey Mouse Club though. He was on the TV show at 12 years old, alongside a handful of other stars. Since his time as a Disney kid, he’s just kept rising up. It is worth noting that he has mentioned his castmates from The Mickey Mouse Club and how they had a positive influence on him.
11 Drew Barrymore—Out Of Her Mother's Shadow
Anyone who is familiar with Drew Barrymore’s story might begin to wonder why she found a place as a successful child star on our list. As a child, she was introduced to substance use, which put her in rehab by the time she was 13. This doesn’t sound like the best situation.
Before she traveled down that dangerous road, she had been on a Puppy Chow commercial when she was under a year old.
She was also Gertie in E.T. when she was seven years old.
Following that came the lack of parental supervision, which lasted for much of her childhood and could have led to even more issues. Luckily, she worked hard and turned things around through rehab and on her own. Now, she’s made quite the name for herself in Hollywood.
10 Christian Bale—Talent In His Veins
There’s a big reason that Christian Bale is as famous as he is today. It all began when he was young. First, his parents are both into show business. His mother was a circus performer. His father was a talent manager. Together, they made for a talented young kid.
Bale’s first major role was Empire of the Sun in 1987. From there, he hit the ground running. The guy has played a variety of characters in a plethora of films. He has no limits—he’s done everything from a musical to playing Batman.
Bale has become a major star since he was given his first role. We’re guessing his talented parents have a lot to do with where he is today. Not many people can brag that Steven Spielberg cast them at the age of seven!
9 Emma Watson—Whizzed Her Way To The Top
Any fans of the Harry Potter series will consider that to be Emma Watson’s big break. She landed the role of Hermione Granger when she was just 11 years old. She was a star in the eight films for a total of 10 years.
We can easily contribute those movies to where she is today. She’s come a long way, but they definitely set the stage for her.
This child star turned out alright! She has since been a part of a few more movies, like Perks of Being a Wallflower and the 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast.
In addition to being a talented actress, Watson is very bright. She ended up going to Brown college. She has also become an activist and feels passionate about women’s rights.
8 Leonardo DiCaprio—Gilbert Was Just The Beginning
Yes, there were some ongoing jokes that Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t winning all of the awards that he should be. This probably is the truth, given that he’s been down a long road of fame and starred in a ton of successful movies. Not to mention, he began acting when he was just 16 and was a hit back then, too.
Throughout his younger years, DiCaprio found himself in movies like This Boy’s Life and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Of course, he is most well-known for playing Jack in Titanic.
DiCaprio—who was tossed into the limelight when he was only 16 years old—has proven to be a very talented individual. It’s no wonder that he has been a part of so many movies over the years. He also has a strong public presence.
7 Anna Paquin—An Original
Anna Paquin isn’t as widely known in Hollywood as some of these other stars have been. She has a lot of acting experience though, and it got going very early. She’s also crazy talented.
When Paquin was only 11 years old, she won an Oscar. Now, this seems nearly impossible.
It was—she was the second youngest winner in history. She received the award for her role in 1993. She played Flora in The Piano.
After her first film, her acting career took off. She has been in more than a few movies, and they’re all varying in genres. Paquin has been a part of big movies—like X-Men. She’s had some smaller roles in less popular films as well. She has kept her award streak going, as she has won a Golden Globe.
6 Neil Patrick Harris—An Award-Winning Doc
Neil Patrick Harris (NPH) is wildly popular. Ask anyone, and they will usually know who he is. He’s been busy in Hollywood, finding himself in many different roles. Of course, most of us are going to recognize his more current hits, such as How I Met Your Mother. This isn’t where his career began though.
When NPH was 16, he played Dr. Doogie Howser in the TV show Doogie Howser, MD. A year before that show aired, he won a Golden Globe for the movie Clara’s Heart.
Since those first two roles in his teenage years, NPH has become increasingly more talented and more popular, too. He’s moved over to more hosting gigs—like the Tony Awards and the Emmy Awards. We’re sure he’s still got those acting tricks up his sleeve!
5 Who Barely Survived It
5 Macaulay Culkin—Should've Stayed Home Alone
Most of us can’t recall any of Macaulay Culkin’s roles after the Home Alone movies. His big part as Kevin McCallister in the films could have set him up for success. Some of us grew up on the movies and can still have a good laugh over his actions.
Well, his rise to fame was unmatched for the family drama he would endure.
His parents split up when he was little. This was why he and his dad didn’t have a relationship at all. Things went downhill for Culkin from there. He got into substance use. This later led to an arrest and probation in 2004.
Not all child stars have the perfect stories and a free ticket to Hollywood. Culkin still hasn’t found his way back into Hollywood to this day. The childhood fame was too much!
4 Lindsay Lohan—Parent Trapped
Nearly everyone knows who Lindsay Lohan is. She is pretty well-known, especially given the rocky stages of her life. She is also recognized for her roles when she was just a young girl and a teen.
Lohan starred in movies like The Parent Trap, Freaky Friday and Mean Girls. She seemed to be doing okay after these movies, but things turned sour quickly. She ended up getting into a world of trouble. This involved illegal substances, arrests, and rehab. How much of this had to do with her rise to stardom at such a young age?
We haven’t heard a lot of drama from Lohan recently. There’s a chance she’s grown out of the issues that followed her child star days. Maybe something huge is building up though. We can only hope it’s the former!
3 Shia LaBeouf—Scandal After Scandal
Fans of the Disney Channel will remember one of Shia LaBeouf’s first roles as being on Even Stevens. Following that role, he went on to star in movies. These included big names like Eagle Eye and Transformers. He was even in one of the Indiana Jones movies.
From that point, most people would say he was doing pretty well. He was—in a way—but it didn’t last long.
Things started to get weird.
He seemed to change at some point because he just wasn’t the same LaBeouf we all once knew and loved.
In 2014, he was both banned from a restaurant and also got arrested—for two different things. Later, he went to rehab. We hope he’s doing better now, but his rush into stardom did him dirty.
2 Britney Spears—What Goes Up Must Come Down
Britney Spears is another one of the child stars who found their home on Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club. The show was a big help to plenty of the stars whom we’ve come to know and love today.
After her time there, she was able to branch out and do her own thing. This is where she started making music and proved to be a highly talented singer. Things seemed to be going well for Spears—she was a huge pop star!
Then—of course—things started to plummet. Spears ended up in rehab for substance use. She only lasted a day there though. A year later, she was back into using illegal substances. All of those challenges caused her to have to give up her kids. Her father was also supposed to be keeping an eye on her after she got caught.
1 Corey Haim—An Uphill Battle
This story is widely known, and it’s the perfect example of the bad things that can happen to child stars. Corey Haim got his start with Lucas and The Lost Boys. Just 10 years following his The Lost Boys role, he found himself in a bit of trouble. The young star filed for bankruptcy.
Haim went through a series of misfortune when he was young.
He battled an addiction, which was later combated in rehab. Then, Haim had a stroke. Though this is scary, it gave him a chance to recover and bounce back.
Sadly—just a few years later—he was found dead at 38. This was because he had both pneumonia and some type of heart condition. From his early acting start to bankruptcy and substance sue, Haim had a challenging life.
References: Entertainment Weekly, US Weekly, People Magazine